In the backstreets of Norwich stands the unassuming and quaint Arts Centre, an old refurbished church which, with candle-filled coffee mugs adorning the tables and seaside art hanging on the walls, seems the perfect place to hear the atmospheric country rock of Devon Sproule and her band. Having had the pleasure to watch her, Marker Starling and her band made up of previous support band Bernice soundcheck a few of Starling’s songs, I had the even greater pleasure of meeting Devon, which made an evening that could only be bettered by the faultless performance she gave on stage.
After some self-confessed bad dancing to a brilliant and inviting Marker Starling set, Devon came onstage to a mature, but wholly receptive audience – the woman next to me excitedly shaking her husband at the beginning of her favourite songs. Opener of both the album and the show You Can Come Home set the mood immediately as she softly swayed to the background image of ebbing waves, and, if she was in the business to win over anyone there, it certainly worked fast. The feeling of natural charm and expected Canadian warmth carried right through, as the images drifted into foliage and clouds. Coupled with title-track Colours and the hypnotic The Fan, this was enough to make me sit on the edge of my seat and feel as if we were in the summery scene I was hearing and seeing. A breakdown into a Rainbows-esque list of colours in said song let us know that although the new album was shared with O’Neill, onstage, Devon was in it to perform each song to its fullest.
This was also true of her covers from Linda Perhacs and The Roches, which sounded as personal to her as her own funky onstage dance moves. The same was true of the songs written with O’Neill, which dominated the set, and it was a real testament to the musicians from Bernice that O’Neill’s absence meant the songs had a whole new energy given to them. The harmonies, especially in Runs In The Family between Devon and Bernice front-woman Robin Dann, were utterly mesmeric and proved that Devon really can transcend genres by simply creating greatly emotive music. This, of course, was then the perfect time for the band, as well as Marker Starling with a shaker, to join them for a jazzy, almost reggae, version of The Fire Inside, which the audience couldn’t help but dance along to, despite being sat down.
So amongst Twin Peaks references (we even walked out to the soundtrack, which led me to finish the second series when I got home), a stimulating natural background video and a variety of songs to please new and old fans, Devon Sproule proved that not only is she a welcoming and lovely lady, but a real passionate and fun performer.